Panforte is a dense, nearly or completely flourless cake packed with dried fruits. It was originally called pane forte, meaning “strong bread”, or panpepato because of the amount of spice (pepato) it contained. Tradition dates it back to 13th century Tuscany. The earliest documentation about the dessert, found in a Siena hospital in the 19th century, records that inhabitants of a local monastery had given the nuns these cakes as a tax or a gift.

Today Italians can enjoy panforte all year, but it most prominently appears at Christmas. Shops in Siena display the sticky, spicy treats in windows to tempt passerby. It has become a symbol for the city, a nostalgic token of its medieval spice-trading days. Like chocolate chip cookies, many families have their own recipe for the “best” panforte. Maybe you can include this indulgent dessert on your table this holiday season?

200 g whole almonds
200 g whole hazelnuts, skin removed
150 g all-purpose flour
100 g candied orange peel
200 g mixed dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, etc.)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch of nutmeg
3-4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
150 g all-natural honey
150 g icing (powdered) sugar, plus extra for topping
Cooking spray or butter

Cooking Time: 30-35 minutes


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the bottom and sides of a 22-cm spring-form pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease with cooking spray or butter.

Spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Toast for a few minutes, until fragrant.Combine the toasted nuts with the flour, orange peel, dried fruit, spices, and cocoa powder.

In a saucepan, combine the honey and icing sugar. Heat until they form a thick syrup. Add the syrup to the other ingredients. Combine well; it should be thick and hard to stir

Scoop the batter into the prepared tin. Use a spoon to smooth the surface flat

Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes. Allow the cake to cool slightly before removing

Once completely cool, dust the surface with the extra icing sugar. When ready to serve, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into small wedges.

To store, wrap the cake in parchment paper and store in a cool, dry place. Panforte can keep well for weeks; its flavor improves with time.


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